It recently hit home —literally — when I walked into her bedroom and there were toys and clothing strewn everywhere. Sadly, this is not a rarity; she is not unlike a human tornado when it comes to her room. There were books on the floor splayed like butterflied steaks, sad shoes all alone missing their mates and dolls here, there and everywhere. I realized when looking at the miasma of kid-sized junk that I had spoiled my child, spoiled her rotten. The stench hurt my soul.
It was evident that she did not appreciate the things that she has, although when pressed she will declare that every single item in her room is “special,” which comes into play every time I try to weed out her belongings. Some of the most conspicuous items in her room are her American Girl dolls. She has more than one and less then ten, basically more than she needs. But it is incredibly hard not to give your child what they want, especially when the items are gifts. And once you give a child something that they love like a doll, it is an incredible challenge to take it away. I wish I was stronger to do just that, but when the subject comes up she tearfully argues her case that each one is yet again, “special.” It’s a battle I lose every time and an emotional response on my part, putting myself in the shoes of a toy loving kid, wanting to give her what I didn’t have.
I really wish she had just one doll, one whose narrative she would embrace and enjoy instead of ADDD (attention deficit doll disorder), hopscotching from Caroline’s trials in 1812 to McKenzie’s gymnastics meets. And it’s all my fault, hence the mom guilt.
Jenn Choi beautifully addressed this issue in her piece for the Atlantic entitled, How to Teach Kids to Be Grateful: Give Them Less. She wrote: “As parents, despite wanting to give our kids everything, one of the greatest gifts we can give is to literally give less, to force decision-making and awareness among all their choices. We need to have more faith in them and let them be challenged. It’s not easy to watch your kids struggle — but in the end, it does breed gratitude.” Amen, sister.
We assist our children with their education and manners. We make sure they are physically fit and well fed. But we should also work on aspects of their character, like being grateful. Well, I for one should.
“Gratitude works like a muscle,” states the Wall Street Journal. “Take time to recognize good fortune, and feelings of appreciation can increase.” And it’s not just the “feeling of appreciation” that is a benefit. Huffington Post writes of a study that suggests that grateful teens are “less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be depressed and have behavioral problems at school.” Plus those who are grateful are also happier and more optimistic.
So how do we work our child’s gratitude muscle? In Dr. David Sacks piece for the Huffington Post entitled From Entitled to Thankful: Raising Children with an Attitude of Gratitude he suggests for us all to: model gratitude, share the gift of giving, teach family values, start a family tradition, assign age-appropriate tasks, serve others, and to practice mindfulness.
Do you feel like your child has a good grasp on gratitude or do you feel like this “muscle” needs a good work out?
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